By Jon Berndsen
The North Georgia Soaring Society, affectionately known as NoGass, was born July 1, 1954 at Fulton County Airport. Jack Dunn and John Karlovich had started the Memphis Soaring Association in 1953, and when they were furloughed from the airlines in 1954, they moved to Atlanta where Jack Dunn started a business, Southeast Airmotive, at the Fulton County Airport. They brought with them John's Pratt-Read 2-place, side-by-side glider which had been highly modified at Miss. State University. A 1929 Baker-McMillen Cadet was purchased from Hendersonville, NC and a Kinner Sportster w/ 125 HP Kinner engine towplane was added to the inventory as well. John Karlovich, a few months later, moved to Starkville, MS where he went to work for the noted aeronautics guru, Dr. Gus Raspet at Miss. State University. His Pratt-Read was left in Atlanta for the Club to use.
1929 Baker-McMillen Cadet with Jack Dunn at controls (12:1 L/D)
Kinner Sportster towplane with 125 HP Kinner engine
Original members in 1954 were: Charlie Sparks, T.F. Murray, Mel Barret, Jack Dunn, Bob Rust, Wallace Hudson, Lloyd Harris, Tom Townsend, Lou Whinnery, W.M. Johnston, Ed Barnes, Rhonda Satterfield, Steve Snyder (guest member from Philidelphia), and John McReynolds.
The first NoGass newsletter went out in October, 1954 and at the time the members were busy learning soaring and getting their glider ratings. Jack Dunn served as the flight instructor and that fall he was authorized by the FAA to give flight checks. The club was quite busy working on the ships and keeping them airworthy.
L to R; Lew Whinery, Bob Rust, Ed Barnes, Jack Dunn, Wallace Hudson
The Pratt Read was nicknamed "Bo Diddy" and was the pride and joy of the Club.
Spring of 1955 found the Club active in local soaring flights and increasing activity. Then on May 7, 1955 the Club's Pratt Read "Bo Diddy" was lost. A new "visiting" glider pilot from the Philadelphia Glider Council, who was attending Ga. Tech, was flying on his 2nd solo flight in the bird. At that time, there was a courtesy agreement that members of one club would accept other club members as their own. The Tech student attempted the daring stunt of making a high-speed pass under the Chattahoochee River bridge that was just off the end of runway 8. He cleared the bridge with several feet to spare on each wingtip as well as above and below the fuselage. However, when he attempted the pull up to head for the runway, he clipped a tree limb that was overhanging the river with the right wing tip and "Bo Diddy" was cart wheeled into the trees and destroyed. Luckily, the pilot was not injured, but the Club members almost wrung his neck! About this same time, the Club's "spark plug" Jack Dunn closed his business on the airport and went to work for Lockheed. With this sudden change of events, the NoGass Club ceased activity and became dormant for several years. Ironically, the petition to incorporate "North Georgia Soaring Society, Inc." was approved on May 10, 1955, just as the Club was heading for dormancy. The Kinner Sportster towplane was sold to a man in the DC area for $1,000.00.
In 1959, John Karlovich had returned to Atlanta and he and Jack Dunn organized a meeting on November 14, 1959 at Parkaire Field in Marietta to reorganize the NoGass Club. Parkaire Field was located at the intersection of Johnson Ferry Road and Lower Roswell Road, where Parkaire Mall now resides. John Karlovich and Jack Dunn served as temporary co-chairmen of this original meeting. It was decided to reform the group with an initiation fee of $100.00 and annual dues of $20.00, which included SSA dues.
Original members of this reactivated NoGass Club were: Larry and Betsy Weaver, Cecil Alexander (the architect who designed the new Ga. State Flag in 2001), John Wallace, Ed Barnes, Vernon Harris, Herbert Muncy, Bill Hoelzer, Paul Tappan, Philip Edgerton, Ray Carter, James Gonia, Walter Nix (the owner of Parkaire Field), Jack Dunn, John and Audrey Karlovich, Al Barrett, William Flower, Chuck Mahay, Joe Stewart, Robert Wylie, J.A. Sandman, Wallace Crichton, L.K. Williges, and Ted Herron.
The first officers were: President-Jack Dunn, Vice President-Larry Weaver, Secretary-Betsy Weaver, Treasurer-Bill Hoelzer.
The original Directors were: Walter Nix, Ed Barnes, John Karlovich, Phil Edgerton, and Herbert Muncy.
The Club immediately purchased a Schweizer 2-22 in Laurel, Miss. for $2,000.00. A flying fee of 3 cents a minute and a tow fee of $1.00 per thousand feet was established. Walter Nix agreed to let the Club operate at Parkaire Field.
Schweizer 2-22 with Ed Barnes and Jack Dunn (17:1 L/D)
In December of 1959, the Club was granted SSA Chapter status.
In April 1960, the Club purchased its tow plane, a Meyers OTW-160 biplane. John and Audrey Karlovich picked it up in Dallas and flew it back to Atlanta. The biplane was also available for pleasure flying by qualified members at a rate of 20 cents per minute.
Meyers OTW-160 towplane
By June 1960, the following new members had joined the Club: Bob Beavers, Colie Whittaker, Bob Thurmon, Wallace Hudson, Roy Reynolds, Bob Rust, and Charlie Sparks.
The first soaring contest in Georgia was held over the Memorial Day weekend, 1960. John Karlovich organized the 3rd Annual Jim Swearengen Memorial Contest, normally held in Memphis, and held it at McCollum Airport in Kennesaw. Maximum altitude gained and spot landing contests were included. Jack Dunn borrowed John Karlovich's BG-7 glider, and in an attempt to squeeze every bit of performance out of the ship, decided to tape up the canopy gaps along the fuselage. Once up at altitude, Jack was surprised to find the canopy frosted over due to his breath on the cold surface and a lack of ventilation now that the canopy and cockpit was sealed up. He had some anxious moments flying around without being able to see outside! Eventually he managed to get a small area on the canopy cleared and managed to land without incident.
Briegleb BG-7 (20:1 L/D)
In September 1960, Ed Barnes became President of the NoGass Club.
Starting in 1961 NoGass began to operate occasionally at McCollum Airport in addition to Parkaire.
At the February 1961 meeting discussion was held of the prospect of merging the NoGass Club and the Mid Georgia Soaring Assoc. Club, which was based in Macon at the time.
Meyers OTW towplane and Schweizer 2-22
During the winter of 1961, the Club moved its operations to a small private strip, Jackoay's "cow pasture" airport, in Fort Payne, Alabama to take advantage of "superb" ridge souring during the winter months. The MGSA group from Macon joined NoGass in this activity. Gliders that were based there during the winter were Karlovich's BG-7, John Wallace's L-K, NoGass's 2-22, and the MGSA 1-26 and L-K.
During the winter of 1962, NoGass conducted operations at Andrews, NC along with the MGSA Club. The two clubs took advantage of some great ridge and wave flying conditions. On Feb. 10, 1962, Len Bachtel of the MGSA club rode the wave to 11,000 in his 1-23 on the first trip up there.
Joe Davis with 1-26 at Andrews, NC
Flat top L-K, Andrews, NC
In the Spring of 1962 the Club's 2-22 was flipped and destroyed in a windstorm at Parkaire and as a result, flying activity was severely curtailed. In the late Spring of 1962 the NoGass Club and MGSA Club were merged and continued to operate from Parkaire Field under the MGSA name. Later the "combined" Club moved to the Monroe, GA airport.
During the mid 1980's, the NoGass name was revived when a few loose cannon in the North Atlanta metro area started flying gliders up in Canton, and mainly at Pickens Country Airport at Jasper. They reverted to auto towing everything just as soon as the guy with a towplane got tired of sitting around for another tow after the one, two, or three gliders were launched.
The NoGass revival crew was Jim Culp, Brian Evans, Peter King, and student Mark Ritter. They had various gliders from time to time. Including Jim's LS3a, a 2-33 bought by an angel but soon destroyed by a windstorm while tied out, a borrowed L-K which only did a few flights, an occasional repaired glider like a Diamant being "test flown for airworthiness return to service" by Brian after his glider shop repairs, and the glorious, red bodied, yellow winged, NoGass Ka-8, the greatest auto tow glider of them all. The Club continued for a while with the Ka-8 until the group decided to disband in 1989. The Ka-8 was sold to John Karlovich for use at his Etowah Bend glider port where the Atlanta Soaring Club was operating